The Warmup - Don't buy into lazy writing
I think it's fair to say that the Canadiens being in a position to win the Northeast is a surprise to us all, but being in the playoffs shouldn't be, and wasn't for anyone actually paying attention.
Yesterday Ryan Lambert wrote this thing on the Canadiens for Puck Daddy.
A lot of people don't like Ryan Lambert, but honestly I do. I think he's a pretty good writer and I find most of his trolling on twitter fairly funny, though I mute him whenever America does something in sports because 'Murika.
With that said, Lambert's article on the Canadiens was lazy. It was really obviously lazy, and I'm not sure why someone would write about something if they don't know what they're talking about. Most of the problem is the opening few paragraphs, so let's break those down.
It must be said, again, and perhaps over and over these days, that no one really expected the Montreal Canadiens to do anything this season.
Well, apart from continue to be bad.
Ummm... Maybe you didn't expect anything, but saying "no one" is pretty strong since 2 minutes of searching brings up this article from around the time Jacques Martin was fired, and this other one from later in the season.
They didn't really change much about the makeup of their team in the off-season. The front office, yes. The coach, yes. The team itself, not so much. Of the 19 Canadiens who have played at least 20 games this season, 17 played at least that many last year, and one of the ones who didn't was Andrei Markov, who has been revelatory even in his advanced age.
Players that have played 20+ games who weren't on the Habs last season: Michael Ryder, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Prust, Francis Bouillon, and Colby Armstrong. That's 3 unarguable top 9 forwards, a borderline top 9 forward, a third pairing defender, and a 4th liner. Even without talking about roles though, that's 6/19 regulars on the team changing. That's 31.6% of the roster turning over.
It's one thing to argue that the turnover isn't a big change (impossible to argue, that's huge), but to not even bother getting the number right? Why so lazy, Lambert?
It was therefore not unreasonable to say that a team that finished among the absolute dregs of the league - your Blue Jackets, your Oilers, your Islanders - wouldn't just be able to clamber back into one of the playoff spots they occupied not-so-comfortably in the 2010-11 campaign.
It's fair to say if you ignore Brian Gionta missing 51 games, progression of young hockey players, nearly 1/3 of the roster turning over, a coaching change, and the success of the team under Jacques Martin.
Which is to say it wasn't like this was a good team that went through an inexplicably bad, season-long hiccup - not unlike the Flyers the year they drafted James van Riemsdyk or, hell, now.
Actually, that's exactly what it was. Except as noted in the earlier linked pieces, Philadelphia's problems were even worse.
The Canadiens were a just-alright team that got considerably worse, and it was fair to expect they'd probably bob around somewhere in the middle. Being in the middle of 15th in the conference and sixth still doesn't get you into the playoffs.
Again, false. The Canadiens were basically right where they are now with about a 53% Fenwick Close before Gionta was injured last year, and that was without Andrei Markov. They year before that, they were the 4th best Fenwick tied team in the Eastern Conference at 52.56%, and 4th in Fenwick Close at 51.60% and that was with Max Pacioretty playing only half the season, and again without Andrei Markov.
Both those measures were better than the eventual cup winning Boston Bruins squad, if you want to know how good that team was. But again, they were undone by injuries (some more purposeful than others). Yet they still took Boston to 7 games in round 1, and three of Boston's 4 wins came in overtime. That series was closer than anyone seems to want to admit.
The rest of Lambert's piece is less lazy and talks more about the current state of the Habs, and how they'll be fine. What gets me about this article is that the lead in was build on crap. And it's not because Lambert is dumb, he knows about fancy stats, it was because he was lazy.